Grassroots group opposes Little Rock school finance plan | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Grassroots group opposes Little Rock school finance plan

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 11:03 AM

Citizens Against Taxation Without Representation, a group formed in successful opposition to a Little Rock School District tax extension, has announced opposition to the alternate plan to pay for a new high school and some district repairs with $92 million in second-lien bonds, which don't require a pledge of taxes or a public vote.

The group wants a public study of finances first and objects to the approval of the bonds by an unannounced meeting of the "Little Rock School Board," meaning Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who serves as school board under state receivership.

The group is urging people to sign a petition opposing the borrowing. Under state law, the proposal is advertised for to weeks and the county clerk can take note of opposition, but there's no standard in state law for stopping such borrowing based on petitions. The state Board of Education has the final authority on whether the finance plan can go forward.

I've written before that second-lien bonds were part of a strategy suggested by Baker Kurrus when he was Little Rock School Superintendent. He, too, spoke of the need for careful district financial planning — including potential operating budget cuts — if this option were to be chosen because of the uncertainty of the district's size and shape on account of the continued erosion of enrollment by charter schools favored by Key and others. Kurrus was fired by Key for opposing charter school expansion.

The group's release:

Citizens Against Taxation Without Representation stands strongly opposed to the blatant betrayal of the 7,184 Little Rock School District (LRSD) voters who voted against the Millage Tax Bond Extension on May 9, 2017. Last week, Superintendent Michael Poore and Acting LRSD School Board Johnny Key approved a resolution to create $92 million of new debt through a risky second-lien bond issue using our school buildings as collateral. We are disappointed that this decision was made during a special meeting that was called without the proper and legal public notification. Further, we are alarmed that the district continues to make significant financial and infrastructure decisions without meaningful public engagement.

Citizens Against Taxation Without Representation stands firmly in our conviction that elected representation is a democratic right. We believe that it is financially irresponsible to plow forward with grandiose plans and issuance of monstrous debt without a long term, comprehensive plan made in cooperation with parents, students, teachers and community supporters. Creating and extending debt while closing schools and implementing other measures to reduce the current budget are counter to sound, transparent governance and, frankly, convey appearance of bad business.

One of the State Board of Education members recently said he was “tired of hearing about the Little Rock School District.” In response to his concern, we have a solution that will satisfy both his sentiments and our long-standing request: give us back the keys to our district so we can publicly elect an official school board (rather than an appointed body of advisors) and get on with the business of the district in effectively providing a world-class education for all students in the LRSD.

Citizens Against Taxation Without Representation urges all Little Rock voters to sign our official Petition of Opposition against $92 million dollars of new debt through second-lien bonds. Join us in delivering the petition to the County Clerk on Friday, July 7th at noon outside the Pulaski County Courthouse (401 W. Markham St.) We ask that you assist us in holding Commissioner Key and Superintendent Mike Poore accountable for their betrayal of students, our voices, and our vote.

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